UL Women’s Basketball & Garry Brodhead Deserve High Praise For A Great Year
Louisiana Ragin' Cajun head women's basketball coach Garry Brodhead has done a terrific job with the program since he took over five years ago, but this season may have been his best yet.
Louisiana, who fell to the Troy Trojans, 78-64 in the title game of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on Sunday, left them just one win shy of the program's second-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cajuns, who have won back-to-back Women's Basketball Invitational championships, can play in that tournament for a third consecutive year if they so desire.
The loss to Troy was disappointing, especially after Louisiana eliminated regular season champion Little Rock, 79-71, in the semifinals.
Still, one has to take into account all of the obstacles thrown at the Cajuns and at coach Brodhead, who became the all-time leader in program wins this year, to fully appreciate their 20-11 record.
First, Louisiana lost a special senior class from the previous season including Keke Veal, Kia Wilridge, Brooklyn Arceneaux, and Adrienne Prejean.
How special was that group? Well, anybody that has followed the program over the years would rank that senior class as the best ever. After all, Veal and Wilridge unquestionably rank in the top ten among best players in program history, both ranking in the top ten in most categories, including career points, with Veal ranking third (1,674) and Wilridge ranking fifth (1,285), before being passed by Jaylyn Gordon recently.
How many programs, men or women, lose two of the top ten players in program history and don't take a step back?
Wait, though, there's more.
Sylvana Okde, a former starter, who ranks fourth in program history in 3-point field goals, had to hang up her sneakers early in the season, as her multiple knee injuries forced her to end her career early.
Okde, who entered the program with Veal, Wilridge, and Arceneaux five years ago, started 53 games in her first two seasons.
As good of a career that Okde had, it could have been even better, without the injuries.
Danyale Bayonne, one of the team's top freshman, suffered a serious knee injury early in the season and was limited to only one game.
Taylor Washington, who played in 25 games last season, left the team early this year.
Jodi Quinn, a starter, and the team's best defensive player was ineligible in the second semester.
So, not only did the Cajuns lose the best senior class in program history, but they also played more than half of the season without 4 players that were supposed to be heavy contributors this season.
Four of the five starters from last season's WBI championship win over Weber St. were not even on the team in the second half of this season.
That's a lot to overcome, but the Cajuns did it, with only one less win after the Sun Belt Conference Tournament than they had at this time last year.
And yeah, we could play the "what if" game all day long, and speculate how many more wins they would have had if luck would have been a little bit more on their side, or if just two of the young ladies listed above had been with the team all season.
Instead, I prefer to enjoy the fact that the team reached 20 wins for only the 6th time in history, that this team overcame a lot to put together another great season, that coach Brodhead did his best job of coaching since he's been at UL, and that the future of the program looks awfully bright.
Louisiana women's basketball is like bad weather...it's coming!